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Senator Scott Hutchinson

Dear Friend,

I am pleased to send you my Session Wrap Up e-newsletter. This e-newsletter features events and legislative activities from the Session Week of June 19 2017.

If you find this e-newsletter useful, I invite you to visit my website www.senatorscotthutchinson.com for more information about your state government. If you do not wish to receive these e-newsletters, please click the "unsubscribe" button at the bottom of the page. If you would like to contact my office, please go to my web page and click the "contact" button. Please do not "reply" directly to this e-mail.

Sincerely,

Scott


Finance Committee Approves Bills Providing Tax Exemptions for High-Tech

On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee, which I chair, approved two bills I introduced that would provide tax exemptions to spur economic growth and job creation among Pennsylvania’s high-tech businesses.

Senate Bill 760 establishes a tax exemption for equipment purchased by data centers and their tenants.

To be eligible for the sales tax exemption, data center owners and operators must have a minimum payroll of $1 million and make capital investments of $35 million in a county with a population less than 250,000 or $60 million in a county with a population greater than 250,000.

This sales tax exemption helps to incentivize the presence of data centers and related industries, such as computer equipment manufacturers and energy providers in Pennsylvania, creating capital investment and high paying jobs as a result.

Senate Bill 770 exempts help desk and other tech support services from the sales and use tax.

As part of the Fiscal Year 2016-17 budget, Pennsylvania’s sales and use tax was amended to include digitally downloaded books, video, apps, music and other electronic media or programing. Not only were the initial purchases included, but so were the “maintenance, updates and support” of these items. This tax on maintenance, updates and support inadvertently led to the taxation of tech support services like helpdesks or troubleshooting services.

My bill removes the term ‘support’ from the definition of taxable tangible and excludes services that provide advice or guidance from the sales and use tax. Technology is everywhere in today’s economy. Businesses all over the Commonwealth, from big to small, use technology to help run their operations. Left unaddressed, this inadvertent tax on support services will severely harm the technology industry and businesses all across the state.

The bills now go to the full Senate for consideration.

Animal Protection Bill Sent to Governor’s Desk

A comprehensive bill increasing penalties for abusing an animal received final legislative approval on Tuesday and was sent to the Governor for his signature and enactment into law.

House Bill 1238, which was unanimously approved by the Senate on Tuesday, strengthens existing animal abuse laws and makes it easier to prosecute a person who knowingly mistreats, abuses or neglects an animal. The bill categorizes animal cruelty based on the egregiousness of the offense.

Neglect -- which includes denying an animal necessary food and potable water, clean and sanitary shelter, or necessary veterinary care -- would be a summary offense. This would become a misdemeanor of the third degree if the violation causes bodily injury to the animal or places the animal in imminent risk of serious bodily injury.

Cruelty -- which includes intentionally, knowingly or recklessly ill-treating, overloading, beating, abandoning or abusing an animal -- would be a misdemeanor of the second degree.

Aggravated cruelty -- which includes intentionally or knowingly torturing an animal or causing serious bodily injury or death of the animal -- would be a felony of the third degree

The re-write of Pennsylvania’s animal abuse laws is based in part on a bill introduced by Senator Rich Alloway (R-33) last year in response to the story of Libre, a Boston terrier puppy who was rescued last year from a Lancaster County farm after suffering from weeks of severe neglect.

Three other bills received final legislative approval this week and were sent to the Governor for enactment into law.

Senate Bill 8 reforms state law regarding the seizure and forfeiture of property.

House Bill 168 makes it a crime for anyone to fraudulently present themselves as a soldier or a veteran of any branch of the armed forces, or to be the recipient of a service medal or other military decoration.

House Bill 217 amends the Crimes Code concerning endangering the welfare of children.

School Hiring Transparency Measure Sent to the House

The Senate approved a measure on Monday that will increase transparency in the process of hiring of school officials and ensure that taxpayers have access to employment contract information. Senate Bill 592 gives taxpayers an opportunity to examine the terms of employment contracts that the local school board extends to key district employees.

Under the bill, when a school board extends an offer of employment to a district superintendent, assistant district superintendent, associate superintendent, or any principal, it must first post the terms of employment on the school district’s public website at least two weeks prior to it being approved. The posting must provide the details of the final offer, including salary and the length of the employment contract.

The Senate also approved and sent to the House eight additional bills this week.

Senate Bill 144 amends Act 537 (Pennsylvania Sewage Facilities Act) to allow the use of “alternative systems” for planning purposes.

Senate Bill 178 updates and modernizes the state History Code.

Senate Bill 242 transfers enforcement authority for the Pennsylvania One Call System from the Department of Labor & Industry to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

Senate Bill 446 provides for the regulation and certification of addiction recovery houses.

Senate Bill 553 provides for chemical testing and other measures related to driving after imbibing alcohol or using drugs.

Senate Bill 639 amends the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) Act to allow municipalities or municipal authorities to include private lateral rehabilitation or replacement in PENNVEST funding applications under certain conditions.

Senate Bill 656 would allow municipalities and municipal authorities to make public funds available to repair or replace contaminated private water lines when they pose a threat to the public health or safety.

Senate Bill 741 addresses sunset provisions related to funding for the courts and indigent legal services.

Senate Confirms Revenue Secretary

The Senate confirmed the nomination of Dan Hassell to serve as Secretary of the Department of Revenue on Monday. Hassell had served as Acting Revenue Secretary since the April 21 retirement of Revenue Secretary Eileen McNulty. He has served in several posts in the Revenue Department over his career and had previously served as state Revenue Secretary in 2010.

Committee Roundup

Environmental Resources & Energy

The Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee approved four bills on Monday.

House Bill 290 amends the Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act to address a vacancy on the Underground Storage Tank Indemnification Board.

Senate Bill 334 allows municipalities and municipal authorities to make public funds available to repair or replace broken laterals on private property when the leaks pose a threat to the public health or safety.

Senate Bill 639 amends the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) Act to allow municipalities or municipal authorities to include private lateral rehabilitation or replacement in PENNVEST funding applications under certain conditions.

Senate Bill 692 adjusts the cap on the fee that a municipality may charge for a sewage enforcement officer’s inspection of a site.

Local Government Committee

The Senate Local Government Committee approved Senate Bill 656 on Monday. The bill would allow municipalities and municipal authorities to make public funds available to repair or replace contaminated private water lines when they pose a threat to the public health or safety.

State Government

The Senate State Government Committee approved three bills on Monday.

Senate Bill 622 requires all state agencies to display a general contact phone number on the home page of their internet websites.

Senate Bill 774 revises provisions on the practice and procedure of Commonwealth agencies, establishes the Office of Administrative Hearings, and revises provisions on judicial review of Commonwealth agency actions.

Senate Bill 775 establishes the Pennsylvania Museum Preservation Fund.

Education

The Senate Education Committee approved two bills on Monday.

House Bill 178 requires the chief administrator of each school building to conduct a security drill, other than a fire drill or natural disaster drill, to practice procedures to respond to an emergency situation that may include an act of terrorism, armed intruder situation or other violent threat.

Senate Bill 756 eliminates the Keystone Exams as a high school graduation requirement.

Rules & Executive Nominations

The Rules & Executive Nominations Committee approved Senate Resolution 146 on Monday. The Resolution sets a temporary Senate rule for consideration of the Fiscal Year 2017-18 budget. The Resolution was adopted by the full Senate on Tuesday.

Appropriations

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved 10 bills on Monday.

Senate Bill 180 updates and revises state law relating to organ and tissue donations.

House Bill 217 amends the Crimes Code concerning endangering the welfare of children.

Senate Bill 326 is Fiscal Year 2017-18 funding for Penn State University.

Senate Bill 327 is Fiscal Year 2017-18 funding for the University of Pittsburgh.

Senate Bill 328 is Fiscal Year 2017-18 funding for Temple University.

Senate Bill 329 is Fiscal Year 2017-18 funding for Lincoln University.

Senate Bill 446 provides for the regulation and certification of addiction recovery houses.

Senate Bill 662 establishes a second degree felony for the delivery or distribution of an illicit drug that results in "serious bodily injury" to the user.

Senate Bill 741 addresses sunset provisions related to funding for the courts and indigent legal services.

House Bill 1238 updates and clarifies the existing animal abuse statute and increases the penalties for abusing any animal.

The Appropriations Committee approved five bills on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 211 enhances the PA 2-1-1 system.

Senate Bill 242 transfers enforcement authority for the Pennsylvania One Call System from the Department of Labor & Industry to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

Senate Bill 529 provides those with low-level, nonviolent criminal records a mechanism to have their record sealed from public view.

Senate Bill 639 would allow municipalities or municipal authorities to include private water lines in Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) funding applications under certain conditions.

Senate Bill 656 would allow municipalities and municipal authorities to make public funds available to repair or replace contaminated private water lines when they pose a threat to the public health or safety.

The Appropriations Committee approved Senate Bill 677 on Wednesday.

The bill provides that contributions into a PA ABLE account may be deducted annually from taxable income up to a maximum of the annual federal gift tax exclusion (currently $14,000) per beneficiary. It also provides that any distributions from or changes to a PA ABLE account that are not subject to federal income tax will not be subject to Pennsylvania state income tax.

Agriculture & Rural Affairs

The Senate Agriculture & Rural Affairs Committee approved two bills on Tuesday.

House Bill 187 provides for wind power generation systems on preserved farmland.

House Bill 790 establishes the Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Act to provide for the regulation of noxious weeds and controlled plants and repeals the Noxious Weed Control Law.

Health & Human Services

The Senate Health & Human Services Committee approved four bills on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 6 is designed to eradicate waste, fraud, and abuse within the Commonwealth's Public Welfare Code.

House Bill 45 would allow eligible patients to request and use investigational drugs, biological products and medical devices not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as long as the patient has a terminal illness and passes other requirements.

House Bill 424 would allow physician assistants to sign a death certificate for a patient under their care.

Senate Bill 655 requires mandatory implementation of opioid prescribing guidelines developed by the Safe and Effective Prescribing Practices Task Force.

Transportation

The Senate Transportation Committee approved six bills on Wednesday.

Senate Bill 56 would require window tinting be included as part of the vehicle safety inspection process and subjects businesses to the Unfair Trade Practices law if they fail to inform a purchaser that window tinting will cause a motor vehicle to be out of compliance with the Vehicle Code.

Senate Bill 785 would allow golf carts use on public highway crossovers for recreational purposes as well as golf carts and low-speed utility vehicle use for incidental travel on public highways for maintenance purposes.

Senate Bill 786 prohibits novice drivers (16 and 17 years old) from using cell phones while driving.

House Bill 1219 renames a bridge in Cherryhill Township, Indiana County, as the Sgt. Robert Eugene Goodlin Memorial Bridge.

House Bill 1288 adds optometrists to the list of medical providers who may certify an application for a disability placard or registration plate.

House Bill 1431 designates a portion of Routes 54, 901 and 2023 in Northumberland County and Schuylkill County as the Honorable Robert E. Belfanti, Jr., Memorial Highway.


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